Choosing a Nonprofit CRM: the End of Do-It-All Packages


There’s a profound change happening in the nonprofit technology space. Nonprofits are demanding increased and improved functionality in their systems, and the all-in-one, out of the box packages that provide everything an organization needs – fundraising, mass email, volunteer management –are falling short.

Here are three real calls I’ve gotten in the past month from nonprofits:

  • An enterprise-sized nonprofit on a large managed package is unable to integrate key third-party functionality into their system. They are starting a two-year process to migrate to a more scalable platform that allows them more customization and control over their database system.
  • A medium-sized nonprofit is jumping out of their all-in-one CRM tool because they need a new mass email vendor – and at the risk of having dirty data, want to jump quickly to be able to communicate more effectively with their supporters (they already have their new marketing engagement tool picked).
  • A small nonprofit likes the volunteer management and events management of their all-in-one tool, but desperately wants to change to a new online fundraising tool. The only problem is, it won’t integrate with their existing system – so their only choice is to move off the all-in-one tool or live with the limitations of their current fundraising pages.

Each of these nonprofits are using distinct all-in-one packages that are geared for different sized organizations, and different functional use cases. But the reality that holds them together is that nonprofits are expecting and demanding increased functionality for very specific use cases for their organizations:

  • online fundraising, especially peer-to-peer
  • mass emailing
  • event management
  • advocacy work
  • program management

The “one tool that solves it all” just doesn’t work anymore – because at some point, perhaps in a year, perhaps now! a key piece of bundled functionality will either not meet the changing needs of the organization or will not allow the organization to bring in other new functionality (i.e it doesn’t play well with others).

Nonprofit technology is undergoing a major transformation – and the one tool that solves all is no longer a viable solution for most organizations. The exception to this is the very smallest, least tech-saavy orgs (see When to Choose Salesforce post ) – those could choose an Out-of-the-Box solution – and then live with the consequences until they are ready to pay for a migration to something else.

Up Next in Choosing a CRM: The Case for Modularity.

Megan Himan has over fifteen years experience in the nonprofit sector and over ten years working on the Salesforce platform. She has a unique combination of deep technical skills paired with an ability to strategically convene groups, coach executives and leadership through transitions, and execute on project deliverables. She is Founder & Principal of BrightStep Partners - solutions with strategy for Salesforce success. In September 2017, she was named a Salesforce MVP.

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3 comments on “Choosing a Nonprofit CRM: the End of Do-It-All Packages
  1. After a couple of years in the SF ecosystem coming from a simpler all-in-one product, I concur. The all-in-one was full of artificial limitations designed to upsell, but strangely positioned. Although the initial lift into the SF world is a very heavy one, it is a very strategic one, as additional functionality becomes relatively simple to implement…at least at the machinery level. Where the all-in-ones earn their money is in providing welcoming and intuitive user interfaces that keep users using the system. That is, if the vendor is thinking like a user, which is often not the case.
    SF as well has put a heavy burden on the admin, requiring a lot of programming to create engaging interfaces. That’s been slowly changing. Soon you won’t have to be a developer to create a good looking app (a well-functioning app is another story), and the app exchange is full of apps that keep SF platform creators on their toes.
    Even if SF is a bit of overkill for a smaller organization, the flexibility and agility it provides makes it hard to go back to an all-in-one product.


    • Megan Himan says:

      Shaun, thanks for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment. Business users are now expecting the same modularity with their business apps as they are in their personal life – the key is that organizations when they move to a more modular approach, invest in a “change agent” internally who can manage this and take advantage of new apps and functionality. So glad PFLAG has that in you!


  2. […] for all its power in the ability to customize Salesforce, there is also danger. Because there are a few things that, if you turn them on, are irreversible. […]


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